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Nikon COOLPIX A Ken McMahon, April 2013

Nikon COOLPIX A vs Olympus XZ-2 Noise RAW

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  Nikon COOLPIX A results
1 Nikon COOLPIX A Quality JPEG
2 Nikon COOLPIX A Quality RAW
3 Nikon COOLPIX A Noise JPEG
4 Nikon COOLPIX A Noise RAW
5 Nikon COOLPIX A Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX A and the Olympus XZ-2, within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Nikon COOLPIX A has a 28mm equivalent fixed focal length lens. To match its field of the view the zoom lens on the Olympus XZ-2 was set to its 28mm equivalent maximum wide angle position.

The COOLPIX A lacks image stabilisation and it was disabled on the XZ-2 for this tripod-mounted test. All other camera settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX A. I'd pre-tested both cameras to determine the aperture that delivered the best quality results, for the COOLPIX A it was f5.6 with the Olympus XZ-2 producing the best quality images at f4. At its base sensitivity setting of 100 ISO the COOLPIX A metered an exposure of 1/4. In order to produce an equivalent exposure on the XZ-2 I applied +0.3EV exposure compensation resulting in a shutter speed of 1/8 also at 100 ISO. As usual both cameras were otherwise left on their default settings.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile.These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes - as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you're used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it's an approach that's designed to show the actual detail that's being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

These crops conform fairly emphatically what we saw with the in-camera JPEGs on the previous page. The larger sensor of the COOLPIX A is generating less noise all the way up the ISO sensitivity range, meaning there's less work for noise processing algorithms to do and better quality results. This is particularly true at the lower end of the sensitivity range where from 100 to 800 ISO the sensor produces very low levels of noise with linear incrmeents at each 1EV increase in sensitivity. As high as 6400 ISO, while there's plensty of noise around it's quite fine and isn't clumping, with the result that edges aren't breaking up and you can still just about read the text.

Once again it is important to remember the XZ-2 has a brighter aperture than the COOLPIX A, and when both are set to 28mm equivalent coverage, the Olympus enjoys a stop and a third greater light gathering power. So if both cameras were using their maximum apertures and the same shutter speed, then the Nikon COOLPIX A would be forced to select a sensitivity just over double that of the XZ-2. So in the spirit of fairness, you should shift the XZ-2 results down a notch in the table below so that the 100 ISO sample is next to the Nikon at 200 ISO and so on. That said though, the larger sensor of the COOLPIX A quickly eliminates the benefits of a brighter lens on its rival.

A camera with a big sensor outperforming one with a smaller sensor in terms of noise is no big surprise, but the COOLPIX A also manages to provide an additional 4 Megapixels of resolution over the Olympus XZ-2 as well cramming it all in to a smaller, lighter body.

Now head over to my Nikon COOLPIX A sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Olympus XZ-2 RAW
f5.6 100 ISO
f4 100 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f4 200 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f4 400 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
f4 800 ISO
f5.6 1600 ISO
f4 1600 ISO
f5.6 3200 ISO
f4 3200 ISO
f5.6 6400 ISO
f4 6400 ISO
f5.6 12800 ISO
f4 12800 ISO
f5.6 25600 ISO
25600 ISO Not available

Nikon COOLPIX A results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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